Review Summary: The Swedes merely keep their brand of metal afloat.
During his prolific lifetime, Steve Jobs quipped time and again about corporate modus operandi in tech, yet his 1995 “lost” interview, merely a month before his anointment as head of Apple (then at the throes of bankruptcy), is considered as the epitome of his clairvoyance regarding the future impact of computers and the internet in modern life. In discussing what makes a corporate entity tick, he pointed the finger towards the subterranean ebb and flow between the so-called “people of content”, and the “people of process”. Jobs posited that the former party is a “pain in the ass to manage”, but its talent leads the way to great products (and corporate prosperity), provided that the latter party allows them to do so.
The music industry, its metal sector in particular, is analogously partitioned, with people in managerial positions playing a crucial role in the genre’s multi-faceted proliferation; and yet, for all the genuine breakthroughs put on record, there were examples of outfits prompted to mine their inspiration greedily, in order to serve the label/corporate zeitgeist. The Gathering released Mandylion
in 1995, but they were compelled to produce a follow-up album of similar spirit, something that the Dutch candidly acknowledged (and never repeated) thereafter. Ulver escaped the elongation of their folk/black metal affair, by unleashing the raw, lo-fi black metal Nattens Madrigal
affair, before fleeing to their own electro/avant-garde/anything-goes universe. Post-Still Life
era Opeth admitted that Blackwater Park
was released, merely to enforce the momentum of its predecessor, and the band’s altogether. Post-Draconian Times
Paradise Lost on the other hand, weary of the huge expectations by fans and press alike, decided to break the circle with One Second
In hindsight, the aforementioned management calls seem justified, given the comings and goings of that era; metal sub-genres, as well as specific band styles, in the ‘90s (let alone the ‘80s) were hardly explored; revenue from album sales was more or less guaranteed if the music was good (or if outfits were at the right place the right time); touring was prosperous as a result, so in most cases, all involving parties benefited. Fast forward some 20+ years; the margins for originality in every metal genre have been severely dwindled; metal bands, good or bad, have live concerts as their sole source of revenue, a fraction of the income their ‘90s and ‘80s predecessors were amassing at those times; therefore, one should expect that artistically and commercially successful band management, would be agile in its adaption to the those realities, as well as the discrete intricacies that come with each band. In the light of the aforementioned, it is unknown whether Trial’s current label played any role in expediting the release of Motherless
with respect to Vessel
, its predecessor. The Swedes spent 4 years crafting their sophomore album (easily among the best metal releases for the ‘00s), which landed them a contract with Metal Blade Records, and live concerts around Europe. Their latest album, however feels rushed, with the Swedes merely keeping their brand of metal afloat.
is a good album that retains the band’s unique character with respect to its peers, but then again, it lies far beneath its predecessor. Arrangement-wise, Trial’s affiliation with extreme metal, which was emphatically and evenly manifested in Vessels
, is one that occurs herein only by happenstance, with guitar tremolo picking and the fast, blast-beat drumming becoming evident in the album opening track alone. In contrast, considerable effort has been undertaken for the album to get a progressive/atmospheric metal character across; unlike Vessel
though, in which classic, progressive and extreme metal formed one homogeneous mixture, herein the level of intricacy on the nominally elaborate tracks, does not lead out of the woods and into the valley of tangible replay value. Towards the album’s end, three of those tracks form a convoluted cluster in which it is difficult to tell when one song starts or ends during casual or dedicated listens. In contrast, diversity in the remainder of the album, is sustained solely through the recursive succession of the more elaborate music with galloping, fairly enjoyable, yet ultimately forgettable classic metal numbers. To the album’s benefit, sound work grants the necessary clarity on all instruments at any volume level, although the ever strong vocals of Linus Johansson have been markedly placed ahead of everything.
For bands and labels, surviving – let alone succeeding – in today’s metal music industry, is a puzzle for adept solvers. How much time is necessary for music composition? Is that time window in check with the deadlines set or implied from contractual obligations? How much time should intervene between albums? Should releases occur when there’s truly something to be said or serve as mere excuses for a band to tour? Trial’s new album feels like sub-optimal answers were given to some of these questions. Be that as it may, the Swedes are still a good band, albums like Vessel
simply don’t come out as accidents, so their next release is highly anticipated.